Spent Monday and Tuesday this week out at the London Book Fair at Earls Court. This was my second year attending the fair – not my favourite to be honest it’s difficult to navigate and I found myself getting lost trying to get from one side of the hall to the other on more than one occasion. The seminars are, however, fantastic. And free. Nice.  So I spent the weekend plotting out a plan of all the sessions I would like to try and get to. I’m on a big personal mission at the moment to start re-focussing on my professional development (more on that shortly) so I went along to a couple of very relevant sessions for PR: ‘Getting books on the front page’ hosted by the PPC, and ‘Going Green’, hosted by Publishing Week.

The PPC session was packed to the rafters. I’d arrived late as I’d had to come direct from another meeting, and found myself wedged (standing) into the very back corner directly under a speaker. And there were plenty of other people sitting on the floor and standing at the back – so clearly a very popular topic. The speakers were also all great, which I have to say was really refreshing. Speakers were: Richard Brooks, Arts Correspondent, The Sunday Times; Rebecca Jones , Today programme; Susanna Rustin, The Guardian; and Steven Williams, Joint Managing Director, Midas PR. I was honestly impressed that all four had taken the time to prepare for the session rather than just wing it, as I’ve seen panelists do all too often. They were also open and honest, giving numerous real examples of cases that have worked successfully for them with book pitches. Best piece of advice I came away with was to make a lot more of the personalities behind the books and their strong opinions/expertise, rather than just focusing on the content of the book itself. It’s already triggered lots of potential ideas in my mind and I’ll be looking for opportunities to profile some of our more opinionated authors in the future.

The ‘Going green’ session was timely given the recent release of the <CIPR best practice guidelines for environmental sustainability communications. Of the speakers, most interesting from a PR point of view was Ashley Lodge , HarperCollins’ CSR guru. Aside from reading word for word from his notes (which was a shame since he demonstrated he knows his stuff during the q&a’s), he presented a well-rounded view of a company that’s not only taking the right steps in changing business practice, but that is also focussing on messaging that both within and outside the organization. There was a lot of discussion about engaging staff, and using them as the drivers of being a greener company. There were some good tips, and I’ll be writing them up and sharing them back at the office. As far as the CIPR guidelines go I am yet to give them a good read. Tying both this session’s key points alongside the guidelines will definitely be useful though.

Overall themes at the fair were digitization and social media. I was gratified to see the expression ‘people like me’ appear in the Book Fair’s official publication ‘The Guide’. This was the whole premise of my dissertation last year – and is something that PR’s should be paying much greater attention to…in my humble opinion.